Real Weddings

A Revived 1800s Masseria Wedding at Dimora Delle Balze, Sicily

Photography by Marry & Me.

 

Inside the perfectly imperfect stone walls of a revived 1800s masseria, Evan and Joey said their vows under the Sicilian sun. Surrounded by orchards and gardens in the Noto countryside, Dimora delle Balze’s inherent beauty anchored their guests in the rustic yet refined natural setting. Vines and foliage were wrapped around chairs along the aisle enveloped in greenery. A simple altar was created with suspended sheer fabric floating above the grooms who both wore Saint Laurent. A local string jazz quartet further cemented the tone of understated elegance and transported guests.

Evan Joey

Evan Joey

Our Story

Names /  Evan O’Donnell & Joey Kuhn

Wedding Date / Septemeber 10 , 2022

Guest Numbers / 75

 

How We Met

We met online, swiping right on a beautiful Sunday morning in April 2014. Instead of doing the typical “let’s get drinks later that week,” we decided to meet up that afternoon. We got iced coffees and walked along the High Line for a few hours, then had a glass of wine on the rooftop of Joey’s Chelsea apartment.

 

Our Engagement Story

Evan came back to Los Angeles from a work trip to see Joey standing in a tuxedo, surrounded by hundreds of roses and candles. (Evan’s first thought was, “are we having a party I didn’t know about?”) Joey led Evan to the end of the hallway, where there was a big box that said “put me on” –  inside, a Tom Ford leather jacket, because Joey knew that Evan did not want a diamond ring (and like a diamond, a good leather jacket is forever). Once Evan put the jacket on, Joey got down on one knee with an engagement band inscribed in his own handwriting. And he said yes!

 

 

Marriage To Us Means…

It’s important to express what a wedding means to us. Because the privilege to declare our love for each other in front of our closest friends and family is not something we take for granted. Growing up in 1990s America, we truly didn’t know if this was in the cards for us – at the time, gay marriage wasn’t an option. But because of the tireless work of the brave LGBTQ people (and allies) who came before us, some who had to live closeted lives, most who never even dreamed this was possible, we get to experience this profound and beautiful ritual of declaring our love and commitment to each other in front of our family – both biological and chosen – the people who have lifted us up, nurtured us and our love, and helped keep us safe.

To us, marriage means continuing to grow together and to build a beautiful, perfectly imperfect queer life together. To continue challenging each other, to show each other love through actions as well as words and feelings, to make each other laugh every day, and to continue breaking down our own and each other’s walls.

Evan Joey

Evan Joey

“It’s important to express what a wedding means to us. Because the privilege to declare our love for each other in front of our closest friends and family is not something we take for granted.”

The Setting

 

Wedding Location

Our love for family and friends was top of mind as we started planning our wedding. We wanted to create a memorable experience for them, one they could carry forever. Initially, we envisioned a more traditional, larger celebration, but the pandemic put a halt to our plans. We toyed with the idea of a small gathering at our Los Angeles home, just for immediate family. However, with the rollout of vaccines and the gradual return to normalcy, we revisited our priorities. The dream, we decided, was a small wedding in Italy.

During the pandemic, we were doing some backyard renovations, and stumbled upon a photo of a rustic blue chair on Pinterest. A reverse Google image search led us to our venue – Dimora delle Balze in Sicily.

In October of 2021, we had the pleasure of visiting Dimora and were immediately taken with its understated elegance. The venue’s unique blend of sophisticated and traditional elements, coupled with its idyllic location close to nature, made it feel like it was frozen in time. Life seemed to move a little slower there, making it the perfect setting for a weekend filled with memories.

Dimora delle Balze was the perfect canvas, one which allowed us to imagine and bring to life an experience for our friends and family.

 

Aesthetic

We took most of our inspiration from Sicily and the wedding venue itself. Dimora delle Balze was already so magical – from the cacti and olive trees, to the whitewashed stone courtyard and prostrate rosemary along the driveway. We wanted to enhance what was already there. We extended the vibe to our dress code, where we asked our guests to dress in “Dusty Neutrals” (in honor of our dog Dusty Rose) and any amount of casual or dressy they saw fit. Our friends and family turned it out in shades of blush, sage, lilac, creams, and whites. It really paid off, as everyone looked so gorgeous against the green rolling hills of the Sicilian countryside!

 

Preparation

We had a leisurely morning on our wedding day. We started the day with a traditional Sicilian breakfast. Afterward, our close friend led us and a few other friends staying at the venue in a yoga session, a nice way to decompress before things picked up. We lounged by the pool for a little, enjoying the company of our friends and family. When it was time to get dressed, we captured the moment with a quick photo shoot, first alone and then with our family.

Evan Joey

Evan Joey

Evan Joey

Photography

Charis (Marry and Me) was the only wedding photographer we interviewed, after we saw her incredible work. She has a very natural, almost docu-style way of capturing people, where everyone looks gorgeous, happy – and like themselves. She has a way of making the day look like both a gorgeous editorial spread and the most fun party you’ve ever been to. When we first met her (over Zoom!), we immediately were taken with her warm, laidback energy. We knew it would be a blast to have her there on our special weekend, because honestly we wanted to hang out with her!

Unsurprisingly, it was an absolute joy to have her there the whole weekend. From her calming energy to her sense of play, whether capturing fun moments with friends or doing a photoshoot in the streets of Noto on a vespa taxi, Charis was a dream.

 

Videography

We chose Eric Whedbee (Affect Visual) to be our wedding videographer, because his videos felt like cinema. We loved that he doesn’t do anything that feels staged, and he is so incredible at capturing the mood and vibe of the event. We also were taken with his amazing eye for filming the vistas and environments. Just like Charis, Eric has a laid back vibe that we were instantly drawn to. We knew he would be a joy to have around on our special weekend. After the events, he continued to blow us away with the final edited wedding videos – equal parts fun, emotional, and artistic. They are exquisite!

Evan Joey

Evan Joey

Style Notes

 

Ceremony Décor

Our vision was to embrace the natural elements of the venue, allowing its beauty to come through. We wanted an organic look, for the guests to feel as though they were sitting in nature, with vines and flowers weaving their way through the chairs, as if the aisle had been sitting idle for months.

The centerpiece of the ceremony was the chuppah. We chose a simple white sheet, adorned with local foliage. We wanted something that looked pure, untainted, natural, and unbreakable. We didn’t want it to look to feminine or too masculine, we wanted something that felt balanced.

 

Reception Décor

We wanted to honor the historical and ongoing struggle for LGBTQ+ liberation by incorporating subtle nods to queer history throughout the wedding. At the dance party, we opted for solid red lighting and a disco ball, reminiscent of underground gay nightlife – spaces where our community found acceptance and love against the backdrop of a world that was trying to undermine our freedom. And plus, everyone looks great under a red light!

Evan Joey

Evan Joey

Wedding Planner & Stylist

For our Wedding Planner we were recommended to Ashley Smith and her team through Joey’s sister. Ashley’s prior weddings looked so beautiful, timeless, and effortless. Once we met Ashley in person, her vibe couldn’t be more perfect. She stood out from other planners – she was so down to earth, creative, and genuinely excited to collaborate. We loved her taste – it wasn’t fussy or “typical wedding,” it was both edgy and classic. She brought a level head and sense of ease that made the process as smooth as possible.

It’s an understatement to say that we couldn’t have done any of this without Ashley, Alexa, and the whole team. From design concept to details, from high level planning to execution – Ashley and her staff handled it all. We got to travel together, celebrate together, laugh together – and came out the other side real friends. Ashley and Alexa’s commitment to making experiences come to life is incredible. It was a real privilege to work with them.

 

 

Evan Joey

Evan Joey

Evan Joey

“We had the pleasure of visiting Dimora and were immediately taken with its understated elegance. The venue’s unique blend of sophisticated and traditional elements, coupled with its idyllic location close to nature, made it feel like it was frozen in time.”

Stationery

For our wedding invitations, we were inspired by the work of queer artist Duane Michals, who was known for mixing handwritten text with his amazing black and white portraits. So we hand-wrote our invitation in the format of a story, and Ida helped lay it out under a photo of us to emulate the feeling of Michals’ work. For the programs and paper goods throughout the wedding, Ida also designed a little line drawing of Dimora’s tower that functioned as a pseudo logo all weekend long.

 

Favors

We wanted to show our appreciation for our guests who traveled far to celebrate with us, and to give them gifts that would not only be useful during their travels but also serve as a lasting memento of the experience. We collaborated with Joey’s sister, the talented artist Carly Kuhn, to design tote bags featuring a sketch of some columns and a breakfast table found on the Dimora property. We also created custom hats with Ida’s sketch of the Dimora tower on the front, and “Sicilia” inscribed on the back.

As a tribute to our LGBTQ+ community, and to the idea of creating inclusive worlds, we carefully selected five different book titles with queer characters and themes – The Great Believers, Less, Angels in America, The House in the Cerulean Sea, and The Talented Mr. Ripley – and personally assigned a book to each guest.

 

Cake

The wedding cake was prepared by the venue, and very true to Sicilian cuisine – with tiny strawberries and pistachios.

 

Food & Beverages

Immediately following the ceremony, cocktail hour took place on the lawn on the south end of the property. We had passed Sicilian hor-d’oeuvres, and lots of great photo moments.

Fortunately, Dimora has an incredible restaurant, Lumìa, which handled all the food for dinner. All the dishes were modern Sicilian, from swordfish risotto to steak with local vegetables. Most of the food was grown on the property.

We prepared a sit-down dinner at a U-shaped table in Dimora’s courtyard. We didn’t want separate tables – we wanted all the guests to feel connected and contiguous. Throughout dinner, both sets of parents gave toasts. And toward the end of dinner, Joey’s father surprised the grooms with a song he wrote for the occasion.

Evan Joey

Fashion & Beauty Notes

 

Grooms Attire (Joey)

Head-to-toe Saint Laurent – an ivory dinner jacket over a cream-knit tank top, with black tux pants. Shoes were Saint Laurent black leather Chelsea boots (with a bit of a heel!)

 

Grooms Attire (Evan)

Designed by Dzojchen. Tailored, custom, two-piece set (black cashmere and silk blend) and a cream knit tank-top. Shoes were Gucci black leather ankle boots.

 

 

Dress Code

“Dusty Neutrals”

 

Wedding Rings, Jewelry & Accessories

For our engagement bands, one of our best friends Alissa Matkovich, who is a private jeweler (STACKED by Reservoir) helped Joey find the perfect option. We chose Lizzie Mandler white gold and yellow gold bands with an organic matte finish. Both were inscribed inside with each other’s handwriting and two black diamonds. For weddings bands, Jamie Camche of JL Rocks made us custom rose gold and white gold bands to wear alongside our engagement rings.

Evan wore a white gold chain necklace by Garland Collection, and Alissa lent Joey a rose gold and dusty rose pearl necklace that he wore as a bracelet for his “something borrowed.”

Evan Joey

The Details

 

Transport

We stayed at the venue for the entire weekend – so we were on-site and enjoying every moment!

 

Honeymoon

We didn’t do an official honeymoon, but after the wedding we wanted to spend some more time with friends. We rented a villa in Taormina with four friends, which was a great way to wind down and enjoy the Sicilian coast and culture. After Taormina, we drove just the two of us to Puglia for a couple nights.

 

Gift Registry

Since many of our guests were traveling far, we decided to forgo the traditional wedding registry and instead ask for something easily accessible, and that would serve as a lasting reminder of those who were invited. So we asked our guests to gift us their favorite vinyl record. Each record would be a keepsake, a reflection of the person who gifted it. We requested that our guests choose an album they love and want to share, one that we could listen to for years to come.

Evan Joey

Evan Joey

Wedding Songs

Entrance song: “Over the rainbow” by Chet Baker

First dance: “Labi Siffre” by Artist

 

Entertainment

To set the tone for the wedding, we decided on a local string jazz quartet to perform during the ceremony and cocktail hour. Dinner featured a curated playlist of classics from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, to give it a nostalgic vibe. We chose Kindness to DJ the dance party. They were recommended by a close friend who heard them DJ a fashion event – we loved their taste in music, their own music, and, after meeting in person, loved their energy.

 

Celebrant

All three of our siblings – Carly Kuhn Matz, Jake Kuhn, and Dani O’Donnell – officiated our wedding together.

 

Readings

In lieu of the traditional Jewish seven blessings, we asked some of our friends to do seven readings. We left it up to them to choose the readings (or in some cases, their own writing), and asked that they keep it secret from us until they read it aloud during the ceremony. They ranged from “Advice from a Friend” by Tony Kushner and “I have just said,” by Mary Oliver, to an original poem written for the occasion by our friend Aliza Neidich.

The couple wrote their own vows. (Joey’s clocked in at a whopping 14 minutes)

Evan Joey

Evan Joey

Evan Joey

Our Advice

 

A memorable moment…

Before our first dance, we decided on a whim to do an impromptu outfit change, slipping off our button-up suit shirt and dinner jacket simultaneously before slow-dancing in our matching cream tank tops and black pants. The combination of monochromatic red light, dance floor disco balls, and Labi Siffre’s “My Song” playing – a song about the authenticity, imperfect beauty, and transcendence of queer love – created a moment we’ll never forget.

A close second – the Friday night Welcome Dinner at Anche Gli Angeli in the heart of Noto was the first time all our guests had arrived and were congregating in one place. It was so special to watch all these people, from all different parts of our lives, mixing together and spilling out onto the streets of Noto, laughing and chatting under the warm glow of the streetlights amidst centuries-old buildings.

 

 

One thing I wish I knew before I started my wedding plans…

Stay present, stay connected. In the end, the only thing that really matters is the people who are there.

 

If I could give other brides to be one piece of advice…

In the immortal words of RuPaul, “Good luck, and don’t f**k it up!” And remember to eat.

 

Sources of inspiration…

1960s Italian cinema, Noto, Sicily and LGBTQIA+ history.

 

Evan Joey

Our Contacts

 

Wedding Venue / Dimora Delle Balze, Sicily

Wedding Planner,  Stylist & Stationery / Ashley Smith Events

Photography / Marry & Me

Videography / Affect Visual  

Groom’s Attire / Saint Laurent + ysl

Groom’s Attire / Dzojchen & Gucci

Wedding Rings /  Lizzie MandlerJLRocks

Makeup /  Tony Pellegrino

Florist /  Frascati Fiori

Cake & Catering / Dimora Delle Balze, Sicily

Entertainment /  DJ: Kindness Nello Toscano Rino Cirinna

Transport /  Sicilia Incoming

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